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Harrison County approves abatements for Eastman, Air Liquide expansions

Following three public hearings, the Harrison County Commissioners Court, on Friday, unanimously approved tax abatement applications from Eastman Chemical Company and Air Liquide Large Industries to help promote expansion projects — totaling nearly $200 million in investments — at the companies’ current site.

“Harrison County tax abatement for all three agreements were approved unanimously in favor of a 10-year, 80 percent tax abatement,” noted Donna Maisel, executive director for Marshall Economic Development Corporation.

“It is the most aggressive tax abatement in 20 years,” she said.

Maisel explained that tax abatement is a tool that counties and cities use to entice capital improvements and investments in an area.

Pointing out the fact that both Eastman and Air Liquide have various locations throughout the world where proposed capital investment could be made, MEDCO applauded the court for utilizing the tax abatement tool to ensure that the development happens at the local site, located on the Longview side of Harrison County.

Harrison County Judge Chad Sims expressed how pleased the court was to be able to help promote the expansion of the businesses in the county.

“Eastman Chemical and Air Liquide already contribute significantly to the county tax rolls; but additionally, they also employ a large number of our residents,” the county judge said.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with these companies and look forward to more pro-growth projects for our county and its communities,” said Sims.

Maisel said MEDCO wholeheartedly supports the abatements, and not only reviewed the information submitted in the application, but assisted with the process for final court consideration, as well.

“We want to go on record as enthusiastically being in full support of the tax abatement requests,” said MEDCO board chair, Hal Cornish. “Our organization supports business, industry growth and we also support the people in the industry that we have, which we think is so important to our future.

“Both of these are important to our county and have a very large impact on our local economy,” he added. “We desire to see that continued for many years.”

Besides MEDCO’s representatives, local plant managers from Eastman and Air Liquide were also in attendance Friday to gain support from the court.

“We’re pleased to further this long-standing relationship with Eastman; and it’s our commitment to provide our customers with products and services in a high quality manner, every day, and it’s our upmost importance,” Brian Farber, Air Liquide’s plant manager, said following the meeting.

“We celebrate our growth, the support of our customers and that’s key to Air Liquide’s success,” he added.

He thanked the court for their approval.

“We could not have done this and this could not have been made possible without the support of Harrison County,” said Farber. “Air Liquide is grateful to be part of Harrison County. We’d like to thank the local community, the city leaders for their ongoing support to Air Liquide and service for the community.”

MEDCO noted that with the combined total of jobs currently, at approximately 1,500 jobs, the abatement will help ensure the long-term sustainability of both companies’ presence and employment.

“Together they provide 5 percent of all employment in Harrison County,” said Maisel.

And not only will Harrison County benefit from the investment, but the city of Marshall, Gregg County, Longview and Hallsville School District will too.

“This will have a huge impact on our area and they will utilize both local and regional resources wherever possible,” said Maisel. “We appreciate their dedication to consider the stimulus that it will have on our local economy.”

“They will have over 200 construction jobs throughout the period as well,” she added.

 

AGREEMENTS APPROVED

The first proposed tax abatement agreement with Texas Eastman approved by the court was for a $35 million project for Phases 1 and Phase 2 , with a requested abatement of 80 percent for 10 years. Judge Sims noted that with the county’s tax rate, even with an 80 percent abatement, the county would still yield about $24,000 a year.

“So it’s certainly not insignificant to the county and we’re grateful for the decision to expand here,” the judge said.

The second agreement approved for Texas Eastman was for a $3.5 million abatement request, also at 80 percent over 10 years.

“Similarly, this $3.5 million will result in almost $2,500 per year, even after the abatement, for net revenue to the county,” Sims indicated.

The tax abatement agreement approved for Air Liquide is for a new capital investment of $157,600,000 for an additional facility to be located on Eastman Chemical property.

“That would actually, even after the abatement, net the county $510,000 per year, which is significant to our budget,” said Judge Sims. “We appreciate that.”

 

PROPOSED IMPROVEMENTS

Eastman Chemical, a manufacturing company, employs 1,475 locally. Global employment is approximately 14,500; annual sales per year are approximately $10 billion.

Eastman owns more than $600 million in taxable property, which encompasses approximately 5,900 acres.

According to the application from Eastman, the plant plans services to be provided to the proposed Air Liquide separation and synthesis gas plant, including a new 138 KV transformer and associated work, underground cable, steam piping, water piping and waste water piping.

 

Improvements also include the expansion of downstream production facilities which consume oxygen and synthesis gas to expand the plant’s capacity.

Modifications of reactors and distillation columns will be made to gain the capacity needed by the facility, the application states.

Air Liquide Large Industries U.S. LP supplies large quantities of industrial gases to its customers in the metals, chemicals, refining and energy industries, according to its website, www.airliquide.com.

The company has 26 local employees and approximately 66,000 corporate-wide. Annual corporate sales are $23 billion per year.

Air Liquide owns more than $40 million taxable property and improvements in Harrison County.

“The plant’s been in operation since 2002. We’ve been in that location and had some facilities on Eastman’s property. We’re expanding on that,” Farber said.

According to the application, a new plant will be constructed to increase the syngas, oxygen and nitrogen capacity.

“The new assets will be integrated within their existing site in Harrison County and will maintain the existing jobs in the community, the application states.

Echoing the MEDCO board chair’s sentiments, Maisel said the capital improvement projects will be vital for long-term sustainability for the companies in the community.

“While they’re all very separate tax abatement agreements with the court, they are all intertwined and dependent upon each other,” she said pointed out.

 

Source:  Marshall News Messenger